What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Taylor Keys

I was born in Madison, Wisconsin, a state where Aldo Leopold, who some call the father of wildlife management, spent a long period of his life living, a state where he wrote the well known book a Sand County Almanac—filled with pages of wisdom and beauty and words that truly resonate with me, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.”

I was fortunate enough to have a childhood full of wonder, imagination, wild places, and an innate curiosity for nature and all of its biotic and abiotic components. I have the fondest memories of trudging through the spring fed pond at my family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin catching bull frogs and turtles, building fires, and so much more—to some of my favorite memories, across the country, fishing on the coast of Texas with my dad in Port Aransas, a state that I am now happy to call home.

My desire to explore and discover why things worked the way they did stemmed from my dad and I thank him for that. His background is in agricultural engineering and soil physics, with a true passion is fishing—throughout my whole childhood and still today he has exposed to all things science, math (yes, thank you for teaching me multiplication in kindergarten), the outdoors, all of which led me to pursue my B.S. in Wildlife Biology at Texas State University. After spending the majority of my life in Wisconsin, I was happy and excited to move on to warmer places and bigger states.

My degree path took me on a whirlwind tour of Texas’ wildlife and wild places and truly made me fall in love with the state’s vastness and every ecological region. I wouldn’t trade my time at Texas State for anything in the world—I made lifelong friends, got to work alongside excellent professors, taught biology students a thing or two about vertebrate physiology (I hope!), traveled to amazing places, and most of all made unforgettable memories. I was fortunate enough to have some amazing jobs—not only teaching labs as an undergraduate but also doing conservation work on the San Marcos River for the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan.

Working on one of the most beautiful rivers in Texas, home to many endemic and endangered species, I worked to spread educational awareness of this important natural resource and unfortunately picked up a lot of trash along the way—this job at times was very defeating but very rewarding. It instilled a deeper conservation ethic in myself and gave me the drive and motivation to make a difference, which led me to Texan by Nature.

A semester before graduating college, I started an internship at Texan by Nature and I’ve never left—2.5 years, a lot of hats, and a few promotions later. My time at Texan by Nature has been truly invaluable. I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside and learn from experts in business and conservation and have opportunities to travel to amazing places across the state—most importantly I love my job and get to work with conservation projects in the state to truly make a difference for people, prosperity, and natural resources.

When I’m not working at my dream job you can probably find me exploring what the city of Austin has to offer (two of my favorite thing: live music and food), exploring the great outdoors, walking my beloved pup Sanford, or traveling the world!

Every day I fall more in love with Texas because my experiences here have shaped me into someone that I am proud of and someone that will always be Texan by Nature—no matter where my future takes me.

Until next time, cheers!